What Crisis?

Stadtbahn_BM_Bayern_925695g(photo from HHA) With NYC DOT trying to push Bus Rapid Transit on New Yorkers I thought it intresting this series of articles that came out this week in Hamburg newspapers relating to an upcoming fare hike, a new street car line to start construction 2012 and lastly a study that shows one third of Hamburg’s commuters would leave the car at home if they had better options with public transit.

I thought I’d start with a quick look at this new street car line, a LRT line connecting a ring of neighborhoods surrounding Hamburg City.  Ultimately the line will run from Bramfeld to Altona via Steilshoop, Winterhude, Eppendorf and Eimsbüttel.  Here’s the map with my extremely rough estimate of the new route (note: this is not the set-in-stone route.)  Currently these areas are only connected via buses.  The city wants to increase capacity along this line but not spend as much money as a new subway line would cost.

The company carrying out design and construction, Hamburg HochBahn works extensively with its partner Hamburger VerkehrVerein to provide fairly extensive service throughout the Hamburg region, including six buses in the HVV fleet that run on hydrogen fuel cells.

Just last week the Hochbahn released its preliminary plans for the line, introducing the technology it would be using, including which fleet of train car and what the new streetscape would look like, particularly as it relates to changes for automobile drivers.  They’ll be using pivoting cars with a 210 passenger capacity.  Stations will be handicap accessible, meaning the platform will be elevated 25 centimeters from street level to reach the train level with ramps at either end of the station where necessary.  Wherever the line runs in its own dedicated right of way, when it’s not sharing space with automobile traffic, the tracks will be laid in a grass bed.

Interestingly enough they’ll be limiting vehicle capacity along certain parts, with the expressed purpose being to get people into the street car, emphasizing that the more people in the street car, the fewer autos that are on the street, so in the end it shouldn’t really be an inconvenience.  I’m extremely impressed that that is an expressed philosophy.  I can’t imagine the MTA being so forthright in its motives, nor Bloomberg for that matter, PlaNYC gusto included.  Another impressive statement, is that this route is supposed to connect neighborhoods that until now have only had bus service.  Outer boroughs take note, out there there’s only bus service for all intents and purposes, why settle for more buses with BRT?

In November the Hochbahn begins introducing the preliminary plans to residents directly along the route.  Signaling along the route is supposed to ensure that the STADTBAHN, as it’s termed, will not have to stop at any lights.  The higher-ups at Hochbahn are insistant that the trains will only have to stop at the stations.  Even in a pack of cars, signaling should work in such a way that keeps the STADTBAHN in front of any group of automobiles that may form.

Just as impressive and interesting is the way in which the STADTBAHN has been able to be introduced; it’s fully on the agenda of the coalition government in Hamburg, meaning the agenda of the CDU (Christian Democrats) and Die Grünen (the Greens.)  Other political parties in the Senate here include the SPD (Social Democrats, a quasi workers’ party) and DIE LINKE (the Left Party.)  The original street cars were gotten rid of in 1978, though I haven’t done the research yet as to why.  For a short time from 1997-2001, when Die Grünen were again part of the coalition government, plans for a street car were again in the works, only to fade when Die Grünen weren’t voted back into the coalition after 2001.  The full network for the STADTBAHN is supposed to cover 52 kilometers (just over 32 miles) with the first stretch covering 14 kilometers and scheduled to beginning running in 2014.

TWO ARTICLES REFERENCED (German only)

Die Tageszeitung (online)

Die Welt (online)

*if you have interest in a very rough translation of either article, please let me know.  or it’s probable the websites have an english version somewhere

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